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Need imitation ivory source

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  • Need imitation ivory source

    I want to make some white machine dials a la Hardinge and am looking for the correct type of material. I need something that machines, engraves and is relatively hard. I've heard of Celluloid, Ivoroid? Somebody has suggested white delrin, but if its like black delrin, much too squishy and soft. Any ideas and where can I get it? Throwing one of Idaho's finest(tater) in a vat of Nitric acid is not an option.

  • #2
    How about some white Corian (countertop material)? I have heard that it machines beautifully, and is also relatively hard.



    • #3
      Ivory micarta would probably work, but I'm not sure where you would be able to source a piece larger than a knife handle. Check out texas knife makers supply They have the stuff, Maybe you can email the and see if they have the size you'd need...



      • #4
        The classic imitation ivory is celluloid. Unfortunately, our ever-vigilant government has put celluloid on the HAZMAT shipping list, so any number of suppliers have quit distribution.

        Are those Hardinge dials made with a celluloid collar, cemented or otherwise affixed to the circumference? I have some excellent looking grained ivory celluloid in .020 thickness. It's original DuPont stock from the 1950s. The material has been carefully stored and it's still in good shape, with great color and a fine grain pattern.

        Frank Ford


        • #5
          Maybe try a tagua nut?? (vegetable ivory)
          Cheers, Pablo


          • #6
            find a pool/snooker ball manufacturor ...those white pool balls are exactly the same shade of white

            perhaps they will sell you some of the raw material.

            all the best.markj


            • #7
              Thanks for all the replies. It seems Hardinge dials are nylon, which surprised me.
              Seems like nylon would be too soft for this but if Hardinge uses it, what the heck do I know. Corian sounds interesting, if I could get it in a larger enough piece.
              Frank, your celluloid sounds like collector material for a fine guitar and not for a ham-fist like me. Thanks for the idea. I think I would like to machine out a ring and slip it over the dial.


              • #8
                The first Machinist's Bedside Reader has a 'recipe' for turning a potato into imitation ivory, which the author says he thinks was actually celluloid.

                It involved boiling the potato in some kind of acid, iirc.

                If you're really interested I'll dig the book out and get it for you.



                • #9
                  Well what small amount of ivory I have left is earmarked for two chess sets when I can get sorted on a 3D CAM package.
                  The last place I worked was a piano factory and contrary to popular ideas that ivory is banned there are many loopholes like it's allowable to use ivory on church organ restorations but not piano restorations.

                  We held nearly 3 tonnes of ivory in bonded store that was bought before the ban but couldn't be used and we also had two licensed tusks in the foyer that were about 9 feet tall.

                  Celluloid was used on cheaper pianos whist ivory was able to be used but later the plastics industry developed a better plastic that suited the job better.

                  Ivory was a bitch to work, cutting it released the most obnoxious smell that made everyone around feel physically sick. It was also hard to match even from the same tusk.
                  The ivory was cut into strips roughly two key sized and then these were put out in drying racks on the roof of the building to dry and bleach in the sun, then they would be sorted and matched, then finished machined and glued to the key.

                  The black keys were solid ebony and fortunatly I was able to get enough of this to match the ivory.


                  Sir John , Earl of Bligeport & Sudspumpwater. MBE [ Motor Bike Engineer ] Nottingham England.


                  • #10
                    Grizzly. In the guitar section. Lots of cool materials used for inlays.


                    • #11
                      You make no mention of how large a piece you need? If you go to a Goodwill, Salvation Store or flea market you just might find the old imatation ivory mirriors comb and brush sets. But again, I don't know your dimensions. I have a box of legal ivory from my engraving days but I'll be hanging on to that!
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                      • #12
                        Micarta is not all that hard to make, and I think it has great potential for the HSM making anything decorative. Ariel Salaverri has one of the best accounts of how to go about making the material for knife handles:


                        In essence, you're impregnating some material with resin, either polyester or epoxy. This is done under a press. Some of the patterns obtained from such things as old rags and blue jeans are quite beautiful.

                        Ivory Micarta is made using paper as the material that gets impregnated.



                        Try G-Wizard Machinist's Calculator for free:


                        • #13
                          Frank, your celluloid sounds like collector material for a fine guitar and not for a ham-fist like me.
                          Nah, it's just celluloid, made for stamping into guitar picks. I "inherited" a few sheets of the stuff with this great old kick press. We have it in the front of our shop for customers to stomp guitar picks out of old credit cards. One woman came in a couple of years ago and stamped the picture out of her driver's license. We were a bit horrified, but she calmed us down by saying, "Hey, it's no big deal - I'll just send for a replacement for my lost license, and now I have a pick with my pic on it."

                          This machine came from an old pick factory in Oakland, CA, the "Kork-Grip" pick company:

                          If you're a real old-timer in the Bay Area you might remember Campbell Coe's Campus Music in Berkeley, where the pick stamper was on display starting in the early 1960s. It's had a fairly active retirement.
                          Last edited by Frank Ford; 02-18-2008, 08:40 PM.

                          Frank Ford


                          • #14
                            Micarta and vegatables

                            Well, Micarta is a trademark for nearly any porus material that is impregnated with phenolic resin. A form made from red paper is commonly used as electrical insulators. You can certainly impregnate cloth or paper with another resin, but it won't be Micarta TM and it will be softer than phenolic.

                            Making celuloid from potatoes and nitric acid is probably possible, but you also need camphor to add to it to make real celluloid. It is a dangerous process in several ways and you don't want to mess around with that.

                            Tauga nuts might work, but they are small, and you'd have to piece them together.

                            If Hardinge uses nylon, then that would be good enough for me.

                            Incidentally, the factory is about 20 miles from me, but no I don't have any contacts. I wish I did. Sorry.



                            • #15
                              Originally posted by daryl bane
                              I want to make some white machine dials a la Hardinge and am looking for the correct type of material.
                              Daryl, I've been told that Hardinge still sells the white dials for the HLV's and the TM/UM mill in a variety of sizes, and that they're surprisingly inexpensive. They have the crossfeed and compound dials in white faux ivory (Nylon, probably glass-filled), and the radius turning attachment dial is even smaller than the compound dial.
                              "Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did."